I hate to say it, but thank goodness we're having a boy...With a wee one on the way, right now I'm especially tuned into the absurd pressure of raising a little girl in today's supermodel-obsessed era.
Sure, mass objectification of women is nothing new. But today's fresh wave of ridiculousness comes from the controversy that's recently been swirling around none other than Minnie Mouse. (What, you didn't hear about the super-skinny makeover she got for a Barneys ad?)
Though the ad has since been modified (now she's actually got skin), Minnie's story is yet another warning amongst way too many to chronicle that we are teaching our kids the wrong lessons about health and beauty.
My hope is that, as parents of boys and girls alike, we can take each of these examples as an opportunity to remind our children that they don't need a makeover to be their awesome selves.
I don't know why I can't keep this blog updated. But, that's the way things go I guess. In lieu of sharing any of my own experiences today, I'm going to suggest you head over to Claire Bidwell Smith's blog.
This exceptionally talented writer recently published a memoir about the loss of her parents, which blew me away and kept me sniffling for the better part of a transatlantic flight. She's been keeping up this blog for years now, something I admire, especially since she's also a mom. And even though I myself am not a parent, I find myself enchanted by the poignant ways she describes love.
Of course, it's no revelation that going through life's most painful moments really does make us better at recognizing its beauty. But sometimes you need an honest voice like Claire's to remind you of that.
So, if you're in the mood for a little bright spot in your day, then go ahead and bookmark her blog like I did.
No matter which neighborhood you call home, chances are it’s got at least one bar with cocktails suitable for toasting Mama Earth. Here, some of the most guzzle-worthy eco-picks in the city, from organic martinis in River North to locally made liqueurs in Edgewater.
Nacional 27, 325 W. Huron, (312) 664-2727, $9.50
For this sweet and tangy, 27-ounce margarita, celeb mixologist Adam Seger uses his own locally-bottled liqueur, Hum (a blend of fair-trade hibiscus, organic ginger, cardamom and kaffir lime) to infuse organic rum with tropical flavors. Hum packs a serious punch – at 70 proof, it just might give you the liquid courage to hit the salsa/merengue floor. Bonus: Seger incorporates local ingredients in most of his concoctions at this Near North hotspot.
In Fine Spirits, 5418 N. Clark, (773) 334-9463, $10
In the refreshing, aptly named whiskey-based Koval Gold cocktail, local organic distillery Koval takes center stage. The drink mixes Koval's smooth, warm Rye Chicago Whiskey and its floral Rose Hip Liqueur, adding a splash of lemon juice and a touch of sugar. With hints of vanilla and berry flavor, the menu's new addition looks to be an instant crowd favorite. Hunker down at a high-top table in this Andersonville watering hole, where a bevy of other seasonal and signature, ahem, bevvies await.Peachy
Aria, 200 N. Columbus, (312) 444-9494, $13
Cozy up with your date in a private nook at downtown's trendy sushi restaurant, then sweeten the deal with this light, fruity martini. Made with Tru's organic vanilla vodka and topped with champagne, it's nothing like your college bar's peach schnapps special. Think grilled organic peach, brown sugar, organic lime and a sprig of mint. On the prowl? Sip your drink in the open communal space or people-watch at the sleek sashimi bar.
Uncommon Ground, 1401 W. Devon, (773) 465-9801, $10
Probably the most eco-friendly biz on the list, the Edgewater eatery/bar/performance space works organic, local ingredients into most everything on the menu – especially this drink. The Interim combines organic ginger house-infused Rain organic vodka, chai-infused sweet vermouth and locally produced apple cider for a sweet and complex taste. A portion of sales of this house favorite go to the nonprofit Chicago Rarity Orchard Project.
Pops for Champagne, 601 N. State, (312) 266-7677, $10
Got something to celebrate? Go for the bubbly stuff at River North's sophisticated champagne bar, where the menu gives a nod to the planet with this "sparkly cocktail." Dry Prosecco, organic VeeV (a light acai spirit) and honey combine in this sweet, festive drink. Sip it in the elegant ground-level bar, or head downstairs to the charming live jazz club.
The Briar Patch
Violet Hour, 1520 N. Damen, (773) 252-1500, $11
Write down the address ahead of time or you'll risk missing Wicker Park’s speakeasy-esque spot – and the blackberry-spiked Briar Patch within it. The classy concoction gets its light fennel finish from Wisconsin-made Death's Door Gin and housemade blackberry syrup. The result of this order: you starting with a fresh, summery elixir…and following it up with another.
As the thermometer edges closer to 100 degrees every day, it’s looking like my winter-time prayers for a hot summer are finally coming true. And after months of shivering on the El platform, frozen eyelashes stuck together and unable to speak because of frozen mouth muscles, you’d think I’d be all for this extreme heat wave. But when everyone around is dripping with sweat and too hot to function, it can be hard to remember why I longed for this season in the first place.
That’s when I know it’s time to drop everything and jump in the lake. The mercifully cool waters of Lake Michigan are a fitting reminder of just how fantastic these summer months are in Chicago. Here are a few good clean spots to take a dip:
Foster Beach - this driver-friendly spot attracts families from the West side because of its huge free parking lots and large restrooms. Ice cream carts patrol frequently.
Hollywood Beach- arguably Chicago's most gay-friendly beach is just a short walk from the Bryn Mawr stop on the CTA's Red Line.
North Avenue Beach - young, hip tanners, volleyball players and other athlete-types command the scene at this popular beach. Plus you can grab a drink at beachside bar Castaways.
Ohio Street Beach - small beach close to Navy Pier with chill vibe and rental wetsuits for our sometimes chilly waters. Bonus: great views both of the city and the triathletes-in-training stroking through the swim lanes.
Beaches outside the city:
Illinois Beach State Park, Zion, IL- forest-lined, family beach with parking, showers, plus a large park for hikers, bikers, and campers, 45 miles from Chicago.
North Beach, Racine, WI- huge outdoor playground for kids, and nine sand v-ball courts (plus beer from the North Beach Oasis) for adults, 75 miles from Chicago.
So far, Chicago's only got one Walmart - which is wonderful and crazy when you think how many there are in most other cities. And it's not for lack of trying. Walmart has long envisioned dozens of stores here, but the City Council's zoning committee has consistently thwarted the chain's plans, denying permission to build due to concerns about low wages and poor worker treatment.
But that's all about to change now that the corporation has granted more concessions to labor rights advocates.
In a June 24 press conference, the Chicago Federation of Labor announced it supported Walmart's newest store, noting that the company had promised to pay its workers $8.75/hour – 50 cents more than Illinois minimum wage – with a 40 cent raise after one year.
Just hours after the labor union threw its support behind Walmart, the City Council's zoning committee followed suit, giving Walmart approval to build its second store in the Pullman neighborhood on the South Side.
The full council must now approve the bid, and chances are that it will, meaning a short-term solution to the unemployment problems we face, but a long-term disaster for local businesses
Chicago's Lincoln Square neighborhood is about to get even cooler. The much-loved Old Town School of Folk Music is opening its new two-story, 27-000-square-foot building in just a few months. The additional space will include more all-purpose classrooms, dance studios as well as soundproof rooms for electric instrument classes.
Beyond the sheer increase in class offerings, there are other reasons to welcome the expansion. Old Town will hire about 250 more employees and increase business traffic throughout the neighborhood with an additional 230,000 visits annually. Also, builders are working with locally sourced, recycled construction material and installing energy-efficient heating and cooling systems in an effort to gain LEED-certification and conserve resources.
So if you’ve been hankering to try your hand at a new instrument but just keep putting it off, there’s never been a better time to check out Old Town. Sign up for classes and learn more about the expansion project at www.oldtownschool.org.
Since last year’s not-so-hot temps shortchanged our summer season, we’ve got to make sure this one’s better than ever. Luckily, Chicago always rolls out the red carpet for warm weather, so we’ve lined up the city’s best outdoor festivals, art walks, comedy nights and more to show June just how happy we are to welcome it back to town.
MayFest, June 3-6, Lincoln Square, b/t Lincoln and Leland Thu 5-9:30pm, Fri 5-11pm, Sat noon-11pm, Sun noon-10pm, free. Who says you can’t celebrate May even after it’s over? Join the party at the 11th annual German festival, where you can fill up on hot pretzels and cold beer while enjoying performances like traditional Maipole dancing and the crowd-pleasing gymnastics of the Jesse White Tumblers. There’s also live music from acts including Old Town School of Folk performers and the rock-meets-polka band Polkaholics.
Beer Hoptacular, June 4-5, Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W Lawrence, Fri 6:30-10:30pm, Sat 1-10:30pm, $45–$55. The beer geek’s dream come true, this sample-fest lets you refill your own glass as many times as you want from any of 200 small-batch beers. In between swigs, talk shop with pros from breweries around the world.
Do-Division Street Fest and Sidewalk Sale, June 5–6, Division b/t Ashland and Leavitt, noon-10pm, $5 donation. Ten Wicker Park-area blocks close to traffic to make room for a weekend’s worth of sidewalk shopping, live music, DJs and food and drink from local restaurants - like Crust’s organic, wood-fired pizza, hipster-rific PBR and fruity sangria. The little ones in your crew will love the bounce house and mad science demos on Hoyne Avenue.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the Park, June 6, Jefferson Thomas Memorial Park, 4822 N Long, 3-5pm, free. Make your picnic in the park a little classier by timing it with the orchestra’s outdoor performance. Bonus: they’ll play the same tunes as they do in the fancy symphony hall, but you’ll get a lot more legroom.
She & Him, June 7, Millennium Park, Jay Pritzker Pavilion, 201 E Randolph, 6:30-9pm, free. Part of Millennium Park’s free Monday series, this show features Zooey Deschanel (of 500 Days of Summer fame) and singer M. Ward crooning along across genres with their pitch-perfect harmonies and soft but edgy sound.
Chicago Blues Festival, June 11-13, Grant Park, 300 S Columbus, 11am-9:30pm, free. Grab your blanket and lawn chair for the largest free outdoor blues show there is. Each year, more than 640,000 blues fans gather for three days and six stages of music, with past performers ranging from Keb Mo to BB King. When you need a break from listening, get hands-on with a Delta Blues harmonica lesson at the Roadhouse Stage.
Ribfest Chicago, June 11-13, 4000 Lincoln, Fri 5pm-10pm, Sat-Sun noon-10pm, $5 donation. The name really says it all - it’s a meat-mania, with about 65,000 pounds of BBQ on hand. Grill-masters from around the city’ll ply you with samples, then you can vote for your fave while bopping along to tunes from bands like indie-folksy Califone. Extreme meat-lovers can prove their mettle by participating in Rib Mania, a serious eating contest for serious eaters. Moist towelettes included.
Old Town Art Fair, June 12-13, 1763 North Park, 10am-6pm, $7 donation. Wander tree-lined streets bursting with art from 260 artists, whose paintings, sculptures, photos, ceramics and jewelry are available for both casual browsers and veteran collectors. There’s also a Gallery of Gardens - a walk through 30 urban home gardens - plus locally made foods and drinks. Kids can enjoy face painting and hands-on crafts.
Andersonville’s Midsommarfest, June 12-13, Clark b/t Foster and Bryn Mawr, 11am-10pm, $5 donation. Though the inspiration for the street fair is the Swedish midsummer festival, you won’t want to miss the many non-Swedish treats here, from Olé Olé’s homemade sangria to the Chicago Diner’s veggie dogs smothered in BBQ sauce and fried onions. The well-rounded fest mixes in everything from nonprofit booths and jewelry and clothes shops, to stages featuring tunes like upbeat Afro-Indian beats from Funkadesi and the comical but energizing Too White Crew.
The Printers Row Lit Fest, June 12-13, Dearborn b/t Harrison and Polk, 10am-6pm, free. Get your bookworm fix at the largest free literary event in the Midwest, where you can leaf through new, used and antique tomes by the thousands. There’s also a chance that your favorite living author will be on hand for a reading. Writers on the lineup include: Oprah book-club fave Elizabeth Berg, local star Audrey Niffenegger, comic artist Daniel Clowes and Nickel and Dimed author Barbara Ehrenreich.
Just for Laughs, June 15-19, citywide, showtimes and ticket prices vary. Comedy trumps all for a week, as 100 comedians from around the country descend on the city, performing at 12 venues around the city. Get tickets early for big names like Ellen DeGeneres (June 16), Cedric the Entertainer (June 18) and Aziz Ansari (June 16, 17).
Theater on the Lake: Second City’s 50th Anniversary Revue, June 16-20, Fullerton at Cannon, Wed-Sat 7:30pm, Sun 6:30pm, $17.50. The Chicago Park District’s outdoor theater season kicks off with a celebration of Second City - guaranteed to keep your sides aching for days with sketches written by Bill Murray, Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert.
Chicago Summer Dance, June 17-August 29, Spirit of Music Garden in Grant Park, 601 S Michigan, Thu-Sat 6-9:30pm, Sun 4-7pm, free. Learn everything from salsa to swing during this 11-week series of group classes and dance. A pro in the featured genre will guide you through the moves in the first hour of each session, then it’s up to your newly found skills, your newly found pals and the band to keep things lively for the rest of the evening.
Chicago Arabesque, June 24-26, Daley Plaza, 50 W Washington, Thu-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat. 11am-7pm, free. There’s plenty of tasty food and drink packed in to Daley Plaza this weekend, whether you’re looking for handmade ice cream, savory spinach pies, or super-strong coffee. In between munching and drinking, check out music and dance, like the traditional dance debkeh-off and browse booths with evil eye jewelry, Dead Sea skin products and artisan handcrafts.
Taste of Chicago, June 25-July 4, Grant Park, 100 E Congress, 11am-9pm, free admission, $8 per strip of food/drink tickets. Fifty restaurants around the city set up shop, whipping up samples of their signature dishes for this popular foodie fest. Stop by the Dominick’s Cooking Corner for demos by chefs around town and TV personalities like Top Chef and Hell’s Kitchen winners. Bonus? The big-name music lineup includes Salt ‘n’ Pepa, the Steve Miller Band and Los Lobos.
Chicago Pride Parade, June 27, kicks off at 3190 N Halsted, noon-3pm, free. Colorful floats and wild costumes, marching bands and cheering crowds - just a few of the givens you can expect at the 41st annual LGBTQ Pride parade. Be prepared for extreme crowds - with 450,000 people flooding the streets, it’s going to be quite a party.
If you're new to Chicago, you might wonder why there's so much hubbub over the parking meters. Chicagoans across the city have been fuming about the system ever since the city sold its meters to a private company in 2009. Here's why.
Meters have sprouted up in neighborhoods that until recently were known for ample free parking. Since the new meters are automated, drivers now pay for parking every day of the week – no more free Sundays. Why the change?BackgroundFor the last few years, our cash-strapped city has been looking for quick financial fixes. One increasingly used solution? Privatization. For better or worse, giving up long-term control of what has traditionally been a city service means an initial cash windfall.
For example, in 2005 the city leased the Skyway toll road to the Skyway Concession Company for $1.83 billion, meaning the privately held company is responsible for maintenance but gets the revenue from the tolls – for the next 99 years.
The 75-year parking meter lease with Chicago Parking LLC (managed by LAZ Parking) is similar in that the city got a lot of money up front, but the transition has been messy and expensive.
Proponents say privatizing the meters provided the city with a much-needed source of revenue in a rough financial time: leasing out the meters brought in a cool $1.16 billion.
Mayor Daley told the City Hall press corps that it was a "very, very responsible agreement," and that investment firm William Blair & Company's analysis had shown the open market value as anywhere from $650 million to $1.2 billion – meaning that the city got the high end of the deal.
Critics say that the mayor and his supporters acted behind closed doors to negotiate the deal, and that the results shortchanged the city both in terms of the sale price and the impact on the public. The city's Inspector General, David Hoffman, claims the deal was worth more like $2 billion.
As far as the public interest goes, many critics believe the new meter locations and hiked up rates will decrease traffic to small neighborhood businesses as well as clog up non-metered side streets.
Where It Stands
Basically you can expect to cough up more money in more places – metered parking now costs about twice as much as earlier rates. One perk: the new machines take credit cards, so no need to scour the backseat for change any more.
But the drawbacks for the average Chicagoan seem to outweigh that one convenience. In addition to paying more, you'll find that there's often just one machine to a block – a headache and even a hazard in inclement weather.
Good news? There's always the CTA...hopefully.
How can you go wrong with cheese and pasta? Well, you basically can’t. There are endless ways to turn a little macaroni and a lotta cheese into the perfect comfort food.
As a Chicagoan who loves her locally made cheese, I decided to come up with a creative use of my favorite melty French/Swiss cheese, Raclette, which is available from the lovely cheesemakers up in Wisconsin. Why Raclette? Well, my stepmom, Sabine, is French, which makes me a foodie by association. It packs a major nutty flavor, so even though it can be a bit pricey, you don’t need a lot. Plus, it’s super-melty, helping make the whole thing silky smooth.
Though this recipe is packed with cheese, cream, and butter, I’ve balanced it out with veggies—you know, to start the New Year off right. I pureed some roasted butternut squash for extra creaminess but half the fat, plus good ol’ beta-carotene and dietary fiber. And while I was at it, threw some mushrooms in to vary up the texture a bit.
The result: We served it up at a recent family gathering and it was quite a hit. Everyone in the group—from the teenager (also the talented photographer; see above) to the grandpa proclaimed it a delight. And they’re family, so if anyone can be honest about not liking it, it’s them. At least I think so. . . Anyway, enjoy!
Macaroni & Cheese with Wisconsin Raclette
1 onion, quartered
3 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
1 medium butternut squash, halved and seeded
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 pound elbow macaroni noodles
5 tablespoons butter, divided
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup (4 ounces) Wisconsin Raclette, shredded
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup (2 ounces) Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place onion, garlic and squash (open-side down) in a baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast about 40 minutes, or until soft. Remove peel from squash and puree with roasted onion and garlic and broth until smooth. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.
In a large pot of boiling water, add the macaroni noodles and prepare according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat. Add heavy whipping cream and Raclette; stir until melted together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add minced garlic and mushrooms, sauté until cooked, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and add to the squash puree; stir to combine.
Grease a 9x12-inch baking dish with butter. Place half of the cooked macaroni noodles in the bottom. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar and season with salt and pepper. Pour the squash/mushroom mixture over the Cheddar. Add a layer of remaining pasta. Pour Raclette cheese sauce over the top. Sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake 45 minutes or until golden brown.
Lavender, I love you. Ideally, I'd be rolling around in fields of you right now, preferably somewhere in the Chateau region of France. Perhaps with a hot air balloon waiting nearby with lavender biscuits and champagne...
But, being that it's January and I'm in Chicago, the closest I can get to this bliss is in my bathtub, filled with my fave lavender-honey almond milk bath recipe. Other than the fact that it obviously smells like a dream come true, it's a winning combo all around - lavender is one of nature's best tension tamers, honey not only softens your skin but also absorbs its impurities, and you can always drink it if you change your mind about the whole bath thing.
Anyway, once you have the ingredients, it's super easy. Fancier groceries tend to carry the lavender, but smaller co-op style spots do too - I scored mine at True Nature Foods (a great Edgewater shop with organic, locally sourced goodies) and I already had some locally made honey thanks to Beeline. Just mix with creamy almond milk, pour in the bath, and voila, a heavenly, toxin-free bath. Enjoy.
Lavender-Honey Almond Milk Bath
1 1/2 Tb dried lavender
3/4 cup almond milk
3 Tb honey
Process lavender flowers in a blender until they become a powder, turning off the blender and scraping down the sides as necessary. Whisk together lavender powder, milk and honey in a glass bowl, then pour into a jar. Before each use, shake the jar and pour half of the mixture into the bath. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Makes enough for 2 baths.